There's no disputing the fact that the auto repair business could use more warm bodies to bolster its ranks of technicians who keep America's vehicles running.
In fact, it's estimated the shortfall of technicians in the U.S. runs as high as 60,000, a statistic that's somewhat surprising considering starting salaries for these jobs can range from $30,000 to $40,000 a year, with the potential to make more than $80,000 a realistic possibility.
All this in a multibillion-dollar industry that continues to expand each year as vehicles become more complicated and the vehicle population grows older.
Still, the industry goes begging for skilled technicians.
Without getting sidetracked on the issue of providing adequate pay to keep techs happy and working in your shop-rather than in your competitor's-tire dealers and other auto repair providers need to explore various alternatives to bolster the shallow pool of available talent.
A recent symposium in Washington provided a solution that forward-thinking dealers and others in the repair field might want to consider: the hiring and training of Hispanic technicians.
The Hispanic Technician Summit, co-hosted by the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), the Automotive Service Association and the National Automobile Dealers Association, set out to identify methods to help Hispanic technicians find training and jobs in the industry. It also focused on showing repair shop owners how to keep the Hispanic workers they employ.
Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-Texas, who as a youth worked in a gas station before returning to school to get his master's degree, called the shortage of skilled professionals in many fields so great as to become a national security problem.
He urged those attending the summit to work on creating job training and apprenticeship programs to give young people in the work force the training they need.
``Ours is the greatest country in the world,'' he said. ``Part of keeping it that way is making sure we have the skilled workers we need.''
We second Mr. Rodiquez's suggestion and encourage tire dealerships seeking automotive repair technicians to get involved in the many organizations and vocational programs already striving to provide job training for Hispanics and other workers.
Certainly, Hispanic technicians-and likely those of other nationalities and minority groups-face ongoing obstacles such as prejudice, the language barrier and immigration problems as they seek training and full-time employment, according to presenters at the summit.
Those are challenges that, once overcome, could help address the nation's shortage of skilled automotive service professionals.